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Locomotor training - not training locomotion drivers!

Locomotor training is a type of therapy that NextStep employs to help people learn to walk again. Science in spinal cord injury is changing all the time, however it is taking a long time for that science and results to be translated into everyday rehabilitation. This is where NextStep has the lead on other providers. NextStep the global brand works closely with the leading researcher of locomotor training and spinal injuries - Dr Susan Harkema. It is through this sharing of information that the NextStep centres are able to provide the most up to date recovery practises in the world. While the research labs tinker with different training protocols to find the very best, our centres around the world provide all the data from each session back to the researchers thus creating a link straight from the lab into our rehab centres meaning you are getting the best evidence based rehabilitation possible.

Locomotor training itself consists of harnessing the participant to a body weight support system thus allowing us in the initial stages to create a walking pattern while also giving the body time to adjust to being upright and receiving load through their legs again. Then at least 3 neuro recovery technicians manually create the best walking pattern possible by maintaining a straight posture and correct stepping pattern. It this creation of near normal walking biomechanics that the spinal cord circuitry can be awoken. The first parts of a session are focused on pattern recognition and creation this is called step re-training. Depending on your initial testing this will tell us how long you would spend doing this but it can be anywhere from 30minutes up to 60 minutes. Following the re-training segment is a part called step adapt, this is where we try and encourage the participant to take control of different parts of their body starting from the head and neck and then down to the legs again depending on where each client is in their recovery. In between each block which is roughly 3-5minutes we are also practising standing with varying levels of bodyweight support. After around an hour on the treadmill we then proceed to walking over ground, where we take all the energy built up from the treadmill and spend around 30 minutes re training our over ground walking ability. All the while with our focus on progressing functional ability from the top down.

Locomotor training is not just for spinal cord injuries, we have worked with many varying levels of spinal injury but also have seen great results with people that have had a stroke, children with cerebral palsy, people with multiple sclerosis and other neurological conditions that can impair your walking ability.

You can also be assured that our team is experienced and has performed numerous hours with a wide range of clients creating a safe and effective session. Locomotor training session's can be long with most of the time being on your feet which is essential to get the benefits which I will explain below. But they are also super fun, you get to work with a great bunch of people, plenty of time for chats, occasionally some virtual reality thrown in or the latest sports game can be on the TV for motivation.

When we think about why we do locomotor training the main thought is that it is just about being able to walk again but that's not totally true. Although the main goal for some people is to be able to walk again, locomotor training has so many other benefits such as:

  • Improved cardiovascular health

  • Increased bone density

  • Improved circulation

  • Improved bowel and bladder function

  • Reduction in tone and spasms

  • Improved mental health

  • Improved core and posture function

  • Improved lung function

And the list can go on and on..... but let's just say there are numerous. NextStep New Zealand is also one of the only places in the country that can do this to the specific rehab protocols that are being extensively researched so if you are interested then send us a message! Below is a video of one of our locomotor training sessions in action.

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